Tag: Sara Moses

Distracted by Other Books

Posted June 5, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 6 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in May 2018

When I first came to reading I was not sure what I liked and I turned to the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list to help me. I saw myself as a literary explorer (hence my previous blog name) and I was willing to try anything and everything. With this in mind I joined a real life book club as a way to explore and practice talking about literature. Fast forward to now, and I have found my niche and I know what I like, so now sometimes book club feels like a chore more than a joy. Having to read The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland for May and The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman for June have been challenging. It feels like they are picking pretty covers but the content has not been that desirable, for me anyway. I want more from my literature than what is provided in these novels. I feel like The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart was too similar to so many other stories, like The Choke, Nest and Deep Water; all three were novels read because of the book club. I do love being the one that dislikes the books but at what point does it stop being worth attending? I do not plan to quit, but I have been thinking about this since I have not enjoyed a pick in a very long time.

Besides my contemplations on book clubs, I have been thinking about the Man Booker International prize as well. I am very pleased to see Flights win; I thought it was an amazing book. I was able to complete the entire longlist except two books which I might read later but I feel a little burnt out by the experience. While I loved being part of a community reading these books and it really sparked my passion for blogging again I felt very restricted by the task. I am very much a mood reader and to have assigned books can put me in a reading slump. This is not to say I would not attempt to read the longlist again in the future. I just hope to have read some of the books on the list next time. Out of all the books on the list Die, My Love was the one I still think about but I also loved The 7th Function of Language and Frankenstein in Baghdad.

Mexican literature seems to be the flavour of the month having read both Like Water for Chocolate and Faces in the Crowd. There is something about Latin American magical realism that seems to work for me, something that I have not found in other forms of magical realism. I have not been able to put my finger on why I enjoy it more but I will keep exploring. I absolutely adored Faces in the Crowd, which is a book you might hear me talk about in the near future. I think Valeria Luiselli might be one of those authors I will be watching closely in the future. I did read The Story of My Teeth but it was not until I read Faces in the Crowd that I realised just how brilliant she is.

Also this month I read Cop Hater, an old school police procedural and Lullaby, a novel that felt like the author was letting her own fears play out on the page. The final book I want to talk about is Packing My Library. I loved The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel and I expected that Packing My Library would bring me the same amount of joy. Though one book was able to blend his personal narrative eloquently with the history of the library, the other just felt more like digressions from his topic. To be fair the subtitle to Packing My Library is An Elegy and Ten Digressions, so maybe I should have expected this. I love reading books about books but I tend to enjoy the ones that are able to blend the personal with something more which is normal literary criticism.

I went a little overboard with my book buying this month and I told myself it was mainly for my podcast. I do not know how this works but I will defend myself by saying that yes, some are for my podcast and most of them have been read now as well. I do not think I was distracted by other books this month. This might be because I am currently housesitting and only have a handful of books to choose from. I thought it was a rather slow reading month for me as well, but this turned out to be untrue. I was sure I spent too much time watching Netflix instead of reading but the statistics prove otherwise.

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Distracted by Other Books

Posted May 1, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in April 2018

Earlier in the month my wife was suffering from a major headache, so lying in the dark I decided to pick up my kindle to avoid disturbing her. I had The White Book on my Paperwhite and I knew it would not take me that long to read. Reading in the dark I was transfixed by the light of my Kindle. There is a line in the book that really stayed with me, “Certain objects appear white in the darkness. When darkness is imbued with even the faintest light…” There is something to be said about reading a book at the right time, because the experience alone made this book enjoyable. I love sitting in the dark but normally hate reading on my Kindle, the combination of darkness and talking about white just meshed well.

However that experience pales in comparison to reading The 7th Function of Language. Have you ever read a novel that you think has been tailor made for you? This was my experience with The 7th Function of Language. Everything about this book ticked my boxes, from the mystery element, to the literary criticism. I loved every minute reading this one and I cannot wait to re-reading it in the future. This reminds me of my favourite Umberto Eco book, Foucault’s Pendulum. I had to laugh at the fact so many people were calling this novel ‘too pretentious’ but others were comparing it to Dan Brown.

I often wonder if my literary tastes are the direct opposite to the norm, because I tend to love so many books others are regularly dismissed. Not that I mind at all. It helps with my pretentious literary credibility. Although I think The 7th Function of Language is not pretentious and would make for an exciting audiobook. I have not read hhHh but after reading this one, I am keen to find a copy. Although that novel is more war based, I am still very curious. It did get a lot of hype and attention, which might mean I will be disappointed by the novel.

This month marked the start of my very own podcast, Lost in Translations. My wife and I have been planning this for a very long time and by planning I mean procrastinating. But this we finally released the first episode which is an introduction episode. I was very nervous but beyond thrilled with just how well it turned out. I am surprised how much support I got on a project that has just launched. I am looking forward to releasing the first official episode where we discuss a book I loved last year (no spoilers into what it will be). My wife will be my first guest and while we have not recorded the episode yet, I hope to have it release in the middle of May.

I have loved reading the Man Booker International prize longlist and I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially after finishing Like a Fading Shadow and Vernon Subutex 1. It has been a bit of a letdown for me. There are so many books on the list that I thought were so-so but not much I loved, besides The 7th Function of Language, Frankenstein in Baghdad and Die, My Love. I will read the next Vernon Subutex book, and I did have a lot of fun reading it but it was not a standout. I am starting to be distracted by other books and itching to read other things. I am not married to the idea of completing the entire longlist but I thought it was a great opportunity to be part of the community. I am yet to read Go, Went, Gone and Flights, which are on my TBR, so they will get read. I am in the middle of The Imposters and have not brought a copy of The Flying Mountain. So that is four books from the longlist that I would love to complete but the only one I am positive I will read soon is Flights.

The BTBA longlist is looking very tempting.

I re-read Frankenstein again, I received a beautiful edition of the 1818 text and thought it was time to read again. I did use this as an excuse to write a piece on how Frankenstein has impacted my life. Surprisingly I think I learnt a little about myself writing that piece and I am always astounded by what I discover about myself while writing. I think there is something therapeutic about writing and it often unlocks connections I have not thought were there. Writing about Frankenstein helped me understand a little more about my past. That piece will be in the next issue of The Literati which is released very soon.

Finally I picked up The Diving Pool to read, which is the pick for a bookclub I am apart of on Goodreads. I love being a part of a Goodreads group reading books in translation, but not many people are interested in communicating. I love a good forum but I think maybe they have run their course. People join but quickly lose interest. I love the idea of talking about books, especially translations but maybe Goodreads groups are not the right spot. What is the future for the forum format? Is it Discord? Or maybe it is a Facebook group.

I feel like this month has been less productive than other months. Only six books read and hardly any writing getting done. I am happy to see my podcast become a reality so I should not complain. I have The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart on the go, which I need to read for my IRL bookclub but I have not planned what else I will be reading. I like to read on a whim and maybe the Man Booker International prize longlist messed with that and has put me into a little of a slump. Although I hope to break out in May and get back to all the books that keep distracting me throughout the month. We are housesitting so I do not have access to all my books, which might mean a little control but I hope it does not keep my slump going any further.

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Distracted by Other Books

Posted April 3, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in March 2018

I live in a city that often does not get much rain. So when we get two weeks of constant rain it is a rare treat. There is nothing better than curling up in bed with a cup of tea and a good book, while thunder and lightning is raging outside. I was able to spend those two glorious weeks reading Frankenstein in Baghdad. Most people know about my obsession with Frankenstein, the book that literally changed my life. Normally I am apprehensive about any take on this classic novel but Ahmed Saadawi was able to deliver something sensational. His take on the classic was able to compare the tale with post-invasion Iraq in a unique way. Since it has been two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s novel, I cannot help but think about revisiting the book once again. Oxford World Classics did send me a beautiful hardback edition, so a reread is in my very near future.

Thinking about Frankenstein got me thinking about other books that have helped shape my life, which obviously leads me to my obsession with Russian literature. The Anna Karenina Fix seemed like the perfect bibliomemoir for me. As someone with a love for Russian lit, I found myself easily drawn to Viv Groskop’s memoir. One day I will write about all those books about books that I love and I have no doubt The Anna Karenina Fix will make that list. It made me want to reread so many of my favourites and then the ones I have missed, then go back to this book and read it again.

I am the type of reader that reads to learn about the world, to experience different cultures and explore new ideas. However there are times when I need to just switch off and read some palette cleansers. For me, this is crime fiction, but I am very particular about what I like. For the most, I will read an entire crime novel even if I was not enjoying it. Luckily there was something about Babylon Berlin that I loved. This is the first book in the Gereon Rath series and what drew me to this book was that it was set in 1929 Berlin. So in the background of this crime investigation we see Berlin as it changes, with the fears of communism and the newly emerging Nazi Party. I cannot help but compare it the Bernie Gunther series. While I have only read March Violets, since Philip Kerr passed way this month, I think I need to return to this detective and read The Pale Criminal. I did also read The Spellman Files at the suggestion of everyone who compared it to Veronica Mars.

The crime fiction I am attracted to the most is the old pulp era, the stuff from the 1920s to the 1940s. There is something about that writing, it is sharp and to the point, but still remains beautiful. Even forgotten classics like The Seven Madmen from Argentina seem to adopt that same style. The Seven Madmen is the kind of book that will remain with me for a long type and I am tempted to reread it, but I will get distracted by other books. After reading this book, I felt like staying with Argentinian literature and I was able to do that with the next book I read, Die, My Love.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist was announced and like many of my fellow book nerds, I was excited to see what would make the list. I had read Frankenstein in Baghdad but it was the only one on the longlist I have actually read. I would love to read the entire longlist but time and availability is always a factor. My library only had four of the thirteen from the longlist but I owned one already. So I thought I would make use of a Kindle Paperwhite to help. I have often struggled to get into ebook reading but the accessibility was my only hope to read the longlist. I will always prefer physical books, but maybe I will be convinced to read more ebooks. My constant distractions with other books and an ereader might be a deadly combination.

Obviously the first book I read was Die, My Love. The fact that it was Argentinian literature, made this an easy choice. This was such an affecting read, I will have to get a physical copy. After completing this novel, all I wanted to do was stay in Argentina forever. I think I could live a happy life only reading Argentinian lit, it has similarities to Russian literature but still feels very unique. I am also pleased to see a strong literary scene of Argentinian women; from Die, My Love, to books like Things We Lost in the Fire, Fever Dream and Savage Theories.

Unfortunately there were a few books that followed that I was not able to connect with, and left me unmotivated to read. Two were Man Booker International Prize longlist picks, The Dinner Guest and The Stolen Bicycle, but the third was this month’s bookclub pick. It was a modern take on Don Quixote set in India called Mr Iyer Goes to War and all I could think was about rereading Don Quixote. My problems with The Dinner Guest and The Stolen Bicycle were as followed; the first felt too similar to another book, while the later just went overboard with the one topic and that frustrated me.

The Man Booker International Prize longlist left me pondering translations. I love reading from around the world, to the point where I am considering turning it into a podcast. I discovered I do not know as much about translation theory as I would like. Maybe I need to explore some Walter Benjamin or as I discovered, Edith Grossman (who translated Don Quixote) wrote a book called Why Translation Matters. Do I need to know another language to explore translation theory in great detail? I know Umberto Eco also has a book on translations too, it is called Experiences in Translation. This might be another rabbit hole to go down in the new future.

I managed to have a very productive reading month, I finished it off with my second László Krasznahorkai book, which was his short story collection The World Goes On. This made ten books for March, and I am presently surprised, especially since I had three books that were a struggle. The only thing I currently have on the go is The 7th Function of Language, which is another book from the longlist. At this rate, I may be able to read the entire longlist before the prize is announced in May. However the availability of the last seven books is the major factor. I own two and waiting on one from the library, so it is becoming more of a possibility. I am having a hard time guessing what will make the shortlist, so I have delayed a few that I think might be on the list. That way I can still remain in the conversation.

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